Food & Drink

Eating Out: Mama Bobo Africa – From Nigeria... to the Ormeau Road

Mama Bobo Africa on Belfast's Ormeau Road is a welcome addition to the city's dining scene. Picture: Mark Marlow
Mama Bobo Africa on Belfast's Ormeau Road is a welcome addition to the city's dining scene. Picture: Mark Marlow

Mama Bobo Africa,

407 Ormeau Road,



028 9013 9391

A window seat at Mama Bobo Africa will get you a couple things. For one, you'll become well acquainted with the rhythms of the 7A Metro bus as it passes up and down the Ormeau Road, calling at the stops right outside the door and across the street.

You'll also get a front-row view of a different kind of traffic.

As a recently-opened restaurant, it's not surprising Mama Bobo Africa attracts some curious glances from the passers-by on one of Belfast's busiest thoroughfares.

But these aren't just quick scans of the place while walking past. There's a steady stream of people stopping in their tracks to read the menu posted in the front window, lingering much longer than simple curiosity about a new place in the neighbourhood would require.

It's not another burger joint, or brunch spot or street food something or other.

Another Mama Bobo Africa has been operating on the Lisburn Road in the city for over three years – a shop selling ingredients and supplies from across the continent. Now owner Hammed Obikoya has added the restaurant, with chef Olatoun Olamide turning out Nigerian staples in an excellent and overdue addition to the city's dining scene.

Occupying the space vacated by the superb and much-missed Bia Rebel Ramen noodle shop, there are a few tables at street level and more upstairs as required, with a constant flow of takeaway orders flying out the door too. Plenty who have examined the menu are clearly satisfying more than their curiosity.

A starter of turkey suya brings a fantastically succulent – and huge – piece of meat on the bone with the light smoke of the grill. But the coating is incendiary even though there's just the one chilli next to it in the menu, denoting 'hot'.

The thought of what that makes the pepper soup (three chillis) would have brought me out in a cold sweat had the hot one not already taken hold.

All that said – the turkey was delicious. If you like it hot, as some do, you'll love this.

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One of the dishes particularly piquing the curiosity of those on the other side of the window was probably the gizzdodo, a little bowl of chicken gizzards, caramelised plantains and peppers, that looks like a contents of a meaty jewellery box, the early evening sun ricocheting off the glistening stickiness. It doesn't get a chilli on the menu but it probably should as there's a smoky heat in the fried nuggets of just-chewy-enough poultry offal offset by the fruit cooked down to sweet jaminess.

The bulk of the main course dishes are vegetable-based soups – closer to stews really – that come with choices of protein or as vegan options and 'swallows', ballast-like dough made from yams or cassava, designed to soak up the flavours, and in some cases the heat, of those soups.

Egusi is flavoured mostly of crushed melon seed, with choices of beef and chicken coated in a tomato sauce.

The melon seeds produce a rich, creamy, thick soup, just right for the swallow to lap up.

Across the table is jollof rice, the national dish of so many countries in west Africa and the subject of frenzied debate about who produces the best. When Ghana and Nigeria play in football it's the Jollof Derby. That's how seriously we're talking.

I'm not taking sides, neither in the football nor the rice, except to say if a Ghanaian version beats this Nigerian one, it's doing very well.

The fish that comes with it is a nicely cooked piece of hake and there are plantains too, but the rice is the star. Tomatoes and spices bring a rich, sweet, smoky mound of comfort that has a gentle warmth rather than any potent heat. It's ridiculously moreish and, like the egusi, at £12 great value for both the quantity and quality.

Sugar-dusted puff puff, little doughnuts that aren't overly sweet, make for a lovely end to the meal. Anyway, there's enough sweetness in the selection of malt soft drinks so beloved of West Africa. The best is the Guinness Malta, that feels like a bottle of Coke sucked through a slice of Veda.

That's a huge compliment, by the way, as deserved by everything at Mama Bobo Africa. And if you don't believe me, don't just stand there. Go in and try for yourself.


Turkey suya £7

Gizzdodo £6

Jollof rice £12

Egusi £12

Puff puff £2

Malta Guinness £1.50

Maltina £1.50

Total £42